Universal Studios Japan has become the first location for a Super Nintendo World, and it has already got people speculating as to whether this could be the future for gaming. Of course, it is not new for Universal to dedicate areas of their theme parks to a specific film, cartoon, or other merchandising initiatives, but this is the first time we have seen a gaming theme park. It features the life-size Mushroom Kingdom and has only been open since the 17th of March 2021. The queues at the gate to get in were phenomenal, with fans of every age vying to get their picture taken with the favourite characters.
Memories of Youth
It is pretty scary to think that in 1983, we first met the Italian plumber Mario in his red hat and his brother Luigi in green. So many gamers were brought up playing Mario games from the Nintendo franchise that this is a dream come true. There were many fans dressed as their iconic heroes or carrying soft toys in representation queuing to get their pictures taken with the famous brothers, Princess Peach and Toad, among others. Because of coronavirus’s current restrictions, the photo opportunities must be slightly distanced, and fans are not allowed to touch their heroes. The giant costumed replicas speak only using the sounds and voices from the video games, and hopefully, in the future, when things are relaxed, there will be the expected hugging and high fiving.
However, it is worth remembering that this theme park seems to have got some special dispensation because over in Disney, there are no opportunities for character photos because of the pandemic. So at least fans were able to get their much longed-for snaps. There are some pretty strict protocols in place though, everyone who entered the park had their temperature taken and were required to wear a mask. Hand sanitiser has been placed at regular intervals, with visitors encouraged to use it. Queues must remain socially distanced, and on roller coasters, participants are asked not to scream as this potentially enables droplet spread. This may seem like a bizarre rule, but it’s already in place across other Japanese theme parks and has been since last summer. In a park that can generally handle 20,000 people, the guest list is also limited each day to 10,000.
Nerves Running High
A few fans expressed a fear that taking their mask off to eat, and drink is a risk, but overall, they are happy with the theme park’s measures. Clearly, the perceived fear was not enough to put them off claiming their place in history as one of the first-ever visitors to the park.
Among the many attractions that have been designed to entertain, you will find a real-life Mario Kart race that takes place in a replica of Bowser’s Castle. Affectionately known as Koopa’s Challenge, this is an augmented reality game where each person will need to wear a headset in order to be able to see the projections, which will feature the other characters, the tracks, and give them the ability to throw items and collect coins. This is undoubtedly futuristic technology, although it is starting to become much more commonplace. On a broader scale, Super Nintendo World pits guests against each other as gamers as the whole setup is one big immersive game. You will find the familiar-looking question blocks from the games that you can jump up and take a punch at and the ability to collect virtual coins. If you want to get in on the action, you will need to purchase a power-up ban. This is a wristband that can be paired with your smartphone app and acts as a storage point for your keys and virtual coins.
Long Time Coming
Super Nintendo World has been in development for over six years, and it’s cost well over half a billion dollars to bring to life. The pandemic seems to have helped Nintendo. More people than ever before are turning to gaming as there has been a steady increase in the purchase of consoles and games during the lockdown. Childhood favourites, in particular, enjoyed a revival as people harked back to safer times. It’s a definite money-maker for Nintendo as not only do you have the cost of entry, the wristbands you can purchase, but you have the obligatory gift shops across the theme park that are filled with Nintendo merchandising, including, of course, soft toys. The plan has been to turn what started life as a video game company into a much wider entertainment company. Based on the results of this initial opening, Nintendo plans to replicate its parks in California, Florida, and Singapore. Orlando will also see a Super Nintendo World, but this has been delayed until 2025, although we’re unsure why. It will undoubtedly boost attendance at all Universal Studios across the world.
Many people have remarked how good the timing has been as theme parks have been struggling significantly due to being closed because of the lockdown. It is thought that the super Nintendo world may even exceed the Harry Potter world for demanding interest from the general public. This had been due to open in 2020 ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games, but with both pushed back, it looks like 2021 will be the year that goes down in history for Mario and Luigi.